Why FG Withdrew Charges Against Mohammed Abacha + How Nigerians Reacted

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President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday constituted an
inter-ministerial committee to manage the €167 million (about N36 billion)
expected to be returned to Nigeria from the government of the Principality of
Liechtenstein as part of the looted funds recovered from the Abacha family.

The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, confirmed on
Thursday in Abuja that Nigeria would receive the recovered funds, latest by
June 25.
She also explained that the federal government withdrew the
N100 billion stolen funds charges against Mohammed Abacha, son of Sani Abacha,
to ease the return of the N36 billion, Premium Times.

To ensure that the recovered money was put into the best use
to the benefit of all Nigerians, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said the President had
directed the committee to immediately identify the best projects and programmes
to spend the funds on. She also said the World Bank will assist in monitoring
the utilization of the funds on specific projects.
The Minister celebrated the return of the funds as a major
achievement of the government from its over 16-year effort.
She said the President, working with her, the Attorney
General of the Federation, Muhammad Adokie; and the National Security Adviser,
Sambo Dasuki, made the recovery of the loot possible.
The return of the funds, she said, was however delayed by
the suit instituted at the European Court of Human Rights, ECHR, by companies
owned by the Abachas, alleging an infringement of their rights to a fair trial
and to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions.
To demonstrate government’s commitment to retrieving the
funds, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said Mr. Adoke had, on behalf of the government,
filed a suit against Mohammed Abacha before the Abuja High Court.
She said as part of the negotiations to expedite the
recovery of the funds, the Abachas had agreed to discontinue their suit before
the ECHR, while the Federal Government equally decided to withdraw the case
against him.
Under the deal, the government’s lawyer, Daniel Enwelum,
told the court that Mr. Adoke had asked him to withdraw the nine-count charge
against Mohammed over alleged receipt of stolen property worth N100.38 billion.
The money to be recovered from Liechtenstein is different
from the $458 million stolen Abacha loot that the U.S. froze and the federal
government wants returned.
However, a cross section of the human rights community has
described the decision to trade away about N100 billion for about N36.32
billion as another demonstration of government’s insensitivity and lack of
commitment to fighting corruption in Nigeria.
The Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere,
described the deal as the most absurd style of plea bargaining, which would
encourage impunity, corruption and stealing of public funds by the country’s
leaders.
“It does not make sense at all. How can one steal about N446
billion and government is accepting only N36.32 billion to discontinue the case
against the culprit? What government is getting is not even up to one-tenth of
what was stolen and a case is withdrawn against him.
“It is the easiest way to steal money from the system. It
shows how unseriously government takes the fight against corruption.”
For a Lagos based lawyer, Kayode Adaramoye, although the
Attorney General had the powers to discontinue with any case at any point, the
government’s action on the Abacha loot is undesirable for Nigeria’s
development.
“The action of the Federal Government is like patting
corruption on the back and a proof that the administration is not sincere about
the fight against corruption. It is rather sad that all these are happening in
a country that has all the potentials to make its people amongst the best
catered for in terms of socio-economic wellbeing,” he said.
The National President, National Youth Council of Nigeria,
NYCN, Wale Ajani, described the Nigerian government’s action as very
unfortunate and one that would show the international community that the
present administration was not serious about the fight against corruption.
Mr. Ajani said that there was no justification for any
government to allow anybody that had stolen from the nation’s wealth to go scot
free, particularly when such despicable acts have continued to aggravate the
socio-economic plights of ordinary Nigerians.

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